English: Integrated pest management – An IPM b...
English: Integrated pest management – An IPM bollworm trap in a cotton field (Manning, South Carolina, USA). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  Remember the cartoon commercials where one squirt of their product “kills bugs dead”? With that kind of success rate, why not use pesticides?
Webster’s Dictionary defines a pesticide as any chemical used for killing insects, weeds, and so on. The key word here is chemical. There are presently over 900 different active ingredients used as toxins on the market today. According to the EPA, home consumers account for over 163 million pounds of this stuff getting into our soil, air and water supply every year.
Pesticide residue gets into our food chain and can be absorbed through our skin. Many of these chemicals are harmful to humans, pets and wildlife. So what’s the best way to get rid of pests?
Try a system called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM simply means that you try the least toxic solutions first.
Start by making your home and garden less desirable for pests.
• Caulk cracks and holes around the home to reduce entry.
• Remove standing water to discourage breeding.
• Use proper plant selection techniques and maintain plant health.
• Clean up debris in yard and garden to reduce living and breeding areas.
Mechanical methods:
• Handpick larger insects off plants and deposit in a bucket of water. Dispose of properly.
• A steady stream of water can knock pests off sturdier plants.
• Use yellow sticky traps near plants, and barriers such as crushed egg shells and diatomaceous earth (often made from clam shells).
When pesticides seem necessary follow these rules:
• Natural and organically derived alternative pesticides are still poisons! A natural pesticide is considered safer than a synthetic pesticide because it is fast acting, degrades rapidly and is considered less toxic to humans, mammals and beneficial insects.
• Read labels carefully! Some botanical pesticides such as rotenone are toxic to fish. Pyrethrum can cause phototoxic conditions on some plants.
Here are some alternative pesticides and insects each helps control:
• Insecticidal Soap (potassium salts from fatty acids) – aphids, ants, scales, mites, mealybugs, and other soft-bodied insects
• Horticultural oil (paraffin or petroleum based) – Aphids, scale, mites, leafhoppers, mealybugs
• Neem oil (derived from the Azadirachta indica tree) -Aphids, whiteflies, mites, black spot, rust, anthracnose, grubs
• Hot Pepper Spray (repellant) – Aphids, spider mites, thrips, whiteflies
• Garlic Oil Spray- Mosquitoes, aphids, ants, leafhoppers, thrips, whiteflies
• Iron phosphate- slugs, snails
• Diatomaceous earth- ants, slugs
• Boric acid- ants, silverfish, termites
Homemade Recipes for Insecticidal Soap and Horticultural Oil Sprays
WARNING! Keep out of the reach of children! Always test on a small area of the plant before overall use.
Insecticidal Soap:
One tablespoon non-degreasing liquid dish detergent per gallon of water. The milder the soap is the better.
Horticultural Oil:
One tablespoon vegetable oil (corn, soybean, peanut or sunflower) per gallon of water.
No pesticide controls 100 percent of insect pests. You will have to live with a few pests as guests. Controlling pests is in your hands. Choosing the least toxic alternatives benefits us all in the long run!

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